On June 1 last, American President Donald Trump announced to withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. President Trump noted that by withdrawing he was keeping his election campaign
On June 1 last, American President Donald Trump announced to withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. President Trump noted that by withdrawing he was keeping his election campaign promise to put American workers first. The decision has come as a major blow to the efforts of climate scientists, political leaders across the world and think- tanks who have worked painstakingly to hammer out the global pact to reduce emissions and deal
with the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
President Trump’s limited understanding of the Paris Agreement is strikingly evident from the fact that he thinks the accord is not fair to the US. While delivering his speech, he also took a swipe at India, China, and the entire developing world. He singled out India and said ‘India is a big polluter and is not doing much and makes its participation in the Paris deal “contingent on billions and billions of foreign aid”. This assertion is not only inaccurate and misleading but also ignores the fact that the US has been the largest historical emitter contributing to the global warming. Infact, India has not yet received anything from the Green Climate Fund, which was constituted in 2010, to support developing countries to counter climate change, using contributions received from the developed countries. While the Fund has set itself a goal of raising $100 billion a year by 2020, a total of just $10.3 billion (including $3 billion by the US) has been pledged by May 2017.
What is Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement is the World’s first comprehensive regime to tackle the dangers of climate change. It is a landmark, because after years of negotiations the political leadership of most countries and global scientific community could decide and agree on , through consensus, a trajectory of reducing the emission level and enabling limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius from the pre-industrial level. Signed by 191 countries in December 2015, the agreement came into force on November 4, 2016 at the Climate Change Summit in Morocco. The Agreement had the support of 147 parties (including the US) and covered around 66 per cent of total GHG emissions of which the US”s share was around 18 per cent.
The US, the European Union, Russia and Canada together have used up more than half of the carbon budget. In comparison, India has emitted less than 3% of the carbon budget. At the current rate of emission, especially in the developed world, the world will finish the entire carbon budget in the next 20 years leaving nothing for the needs for the development of the future
If we take the specific example of the US, the per capita coal consumption in the US is four times higher than what we have in India and everyday an American consumes 18 times more electricity than an Indian does. There are only around 18 cars per thousand people in India in comparison to more than 400 in the US. While the per capita emission (in CO2 ton) for India is only 1.6, the same for the US, Canada, and European Union are respectively 17.5, 14.6 and 7.2. With the much talked about America’s commitment, which President Trump withdrew, the US would have lowered its per capita emission to around 14, whereas India with a high growth trajectory would have reached little above 4.2 by 2030.
While the US has withdrawn from the Paris accord, most of the signatory countries, including India, have announced publicly to reaffirm their support to the cause of climate change, as ignoring it and its adverse effects is not a luxury that one can afford. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his recent State visit to France, trumpeted India’s commitment to ‘The Agreement saying India will work and walk together with others to leave a gift for the future generation. He further said that the Paris Agreement reflects our duty towards protecting the Earth and our natural resources and for India climate-friendly pathway is an article of faith. Infact, India has been historically following a climate friendly pathway towards development’.
Leading by example
India, during signing of the Paris Climate Deal, pledged to achieve 40% cumulative installed power capacity from non-fossil fuel resources and promised to reduce emission intensity by 33 to 35% by 2030 from the 2005 level. Towards this end India has already taken a number of steps. The Modi Government scaled up the National Solar Mission target for installing 22 GW of solar power to 100 GW by the year 2022 and the overall renewable power target to 175 GW. While the target may appear to be too ambitious, it has set a direction and commitment to travel creating an attractive market for global investors and making policy planners to sit up and design an electricity system that can integrate such large capacity of renewable energy. A reverse auction based competitive bidding process was adopted that resulted in decreasing the price of solar electricity from above Rs 10 per kWh in 2010 to Rs 2.44 in May 2017. This discovered price is cheaper than coal, which sells for about Rs.3.0 per kWh. Similarly, the competitive bidding for wind power resulted in price falling to less than Rs 3.50 per kWh. With energy storage cost, a critical component of renewable energy system, being also falling and being expected to fall further, many believe that India does not have the need for any new coal plants.
As per the latest data, India”s overall installed renewable capacity has already reached around 57 GW, accounting for 17.5 percent of the total installed power capacity. India saw nearly $10 billion invested, both in 2015 and in 2016, in renewable energy projects. India has also been the leader in off-grid solar energy sales (more than other top 5 combined) during the last two years. In the field of energy efficiency, India has also shown its willingness and ability to implement the programmes in scale. Almost 25 crore LED bulbs have been distributed under the UJALA scheme, thereby helping to reduce around 2.5 crore ton CO2 per year. India is also creating an additional carbon sink – by increasing its forest cover to 33% from the current 24%. At the global level, India has steered the International Solar Alliance, to collectively work with the solar energy rich countries to promote solar power. India has the potential to become the new global leader to guide the world to follow a low emission pathway for sustainable development.
(The writer is a senior researcher in TERI, New Delhi)